Among the exceptional talents whose NCAA careers have reached their pinnacle as the Class of 2017, one of the most distinguished is Hanna Bunton. A gifted scorer with the Cornell Big Red, Bunton was among a remarkable number of prized recruits for the program over the seasons, whose hockey resume included a memorable stint as a member of Canada’s U18 National Women’s Team.
With the culmination of her Cornell career resulting in honors as the Ivy League Player of the Year, while leading the Big Red in scoring for the second straight season, it brought her career full circle. Having started her career as the recipient of the 2014 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, her accumulating of hockey hardware is more than just a symbol of her amazing talent; it is an opportunity for her to pay tribute to the remarkable players that she has called a teammate throughout four fantastic seasons.
“Although in both cases I had different teammates, any individual award is a reflection of the team that you are surrounded by and the support from such committed staff. Without my coaches and teammates I would not be the player or person that I am today.
Obviously I am proud of those achievements and they are a huge honor and I hope it reflects consistency and effort over four years but those aren’t the things that I will remember from my time at Cornell.
The things that I will remember will be the successes and relationships that I have built with such amazing people.”
In between her fantastic freshman and sensational senior campaigns, Bunton developed into an essential component to the Big Red’s offensive attack. Statistically, she would see improvement in every season.
As a junior, Bunton truly came into her own, becoming the centerpiece of the offense, while taking on the mantle of leadership. Gaining career highs in every major statistical offensive category, her memorable efforts throughout a memorable 2015-16 would be quickly highlighted by scoring the first goal of the season for the Big Red.
Complemented by a pair of scoring streaks, which also included closing out the season with a four-game streak, she would also reach the hallowed milestone of her first NCAA hat trick, achieving the feat (along with an assist) in a convincing 6-1 win on the road against the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Recognized as a Second Team All-Ivy in the aftermath of Bunton’s junior season, in which she also appeared in every game, there was no shortage of memorable moments during a breakthrough season that served as a coming-out party.
Reflecting on her remarkable Cornell career, in which her entire time at Lynah Rink provided a seemingly endless supply of such memorable moments, the discussion of which aspect stands out as her favourite moment involves a lot of jubilant contemplation. What emerges may border on the surprising, but at its core, it reflects her sincere appreciation of her fellow teammates, whose mutual respect of the game, and each other, brings about a strong sense of family,
“This is one of the hardest questions I’ve had in a while because I could probably go for hours about all of my favorite memories.
Most people would expect someone to talk about a championship they won or a specific game but I am going to have a bit of an unorthodox answer and say that one of my favorite moments happened close to the end of this season.
It was before practice and we were all getting ready when a sophomore (Diana Buckley) got up and started a Zumba routine.
Every single person in the room got up and followed her with no hesitations. It was in that moment that I realized how special this team really was and how lucky we were to be playing the game we all love and having so much fun doing it.
It is moments like these with my teammates that have made my four years so unforgettable and have helped me to stay in love with the game of hockey.”
Recording back-to-back seasons of at least 25 points in her junior and senior campaigns, Bunton also rose to the occasion on special teams in her final seasons, logging career highs in power play goals (5) and game-winning goals (4).
With her final Big Red goal taking place on the road against Brown Bears backstop Monica Elvin on February 11, part of a multi-point effort, which was also her last with the program. Of note, her final point would take place in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, gaining an assist on a goal scored by Lenka Serdar in a loss to the eventual national champion Clarkson Golden Knights.
Prior to such an exciting postseason run, there was a treasured opportunity to celebrate a great career. While senior night represented a series of mixed yet treasured emotions for Bunton, there was an element of ease knowing that it would not technically be her final game at Lynah Rink. With the Big Red having qualified for the postseason, there would be other games on home ice, including a two-game sweep of the Colgate Raiders and an emotional victory against the nationally ranked St. Lawrence Skating Saints.
For one special night, it was an opportunity for Bunton to be surrounded by friends, family and love, commemorating a charismatic career and recognizing a thrilling team player whose on-ice gifts made those around her better players.
“I had a lot of different emotions heading into senior night. There was obviously sadness, nostalgia, excitement, and nerves but I think the strongest emotion was happiness.
Knowing I had spent four years at such a prestigious institution and met so many amazing people was what made me so happy. And obviously knowing that that senior night was not my last game at Lynah Rink helped.”
When Bunton began with the Big Red, she was surrounded by world class talent such as Jessica Campbell, Emily Fulton, Brianne Jenner, Cassandra Poudrier, Lauriane Rougeau and Jillian Saulnier, among others. It contributed to a strong significance of belonging and togetherness that not only defined the team’s culture, but factored into one of the happiest times in Bunton’s life.
Such feelings extended beyond the team itself. The community of Ithaca was among one of the most enthusiastic within the Ivy League, bringing a proud meaning of what it truly meant to be part of a team. Along with the staff who helped make the games a reality, to the youngsters that would grace the ice on a frozen Sunday morning, bringing a heartfelt warmth with their love of the game, it was a gathering of treasured times that composed many of the aspects that Bunton shall miss about Cornell,
“I think I will miss the people and community the most. We are very lucky to have support from so many different people within Ithaca and I believe it is very unique to Cornell.
I will miss coming to the rink every day with a group of people that put so much into our sport and team. I will miss our staff. And I’ll miss seeing the little hockey players form the Ithaca community lighting up when we enter Lynah for a game.”
Having blossomed into one of the most talented skaters to don the Big Red jersey, Bunton’s superlative career not only built on the legacies of such wondrous women, she extended the amazing tradition of Big Red women’s hockey as one of the best in the nation.
Among the team’s captains during her senior season, Bunton paid it forward, representing a role as mentor, and big sister, for an incoming class of freshmen. Among said class includes the likes of Grace Graham, Hanna Mutschelknaus, Dawson College skater Valerie Audet, second generation star Jaime Bourbonnais, Paige Lewis, Kristin O’Neill and Newfoundlander Amy Curlew.
Equally important was spreading the positive message of the heart-warming cause that has become an integral part of Cornell lore; Do It for Daron (DIFD). Although blueliner Morgan Richardson graduated in 2016, DIFD is named in honor of her last sister Daron. With a DIFD fundraiser held every year since Morgan joined the program during the 2012-13 campaign, the DIFD purple heart logo remains prevalent on player’s helmets and jerseys.
Undoubtedly, Bunton’s maturity and appreciation for the Big Red program, saw her rise to the occasion, emerging as more than just a leader in her sensational senior season, but to emerge as an ambassador for the program. In discussing whether there was an element of fun that involved working with the younger players, it was a reply proudly proclaimed,
“Yes, for sure. I have said this before but I think one of the biggest legacies that you can leave on a hockey program is creating a culture that stays with a team for many years after your exit.
I prided myself on work ethic, commitment, and dedication and I know that the other seniors would say the same thing. It was so fun to have seven freshmen come in and be so eager to learn and excel.
I am so proud of my senior class and all the upperclassman for showing the younger players what it takes to be a Cornell Big Red hockey player and I think that legacy will last for many more years and those younger players will soon be the leaders on the team and be able to leave their own legacy.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Cornell Big Red athletics